Sacred Heart Prep and Bellarmine are now in the No. 3 and No. 4 positions after De La Salle and Clayton Valley. It’s also a good week for NCS finalist Pittsburg to go way up plus there’s the weirdness of ranking teams that played in CCS consolation games.
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The old adage about the more things change the more they stay the same is a pretty good way to paraphrase the way it’s boiled down this year in the Bay Area race towards potential CIF bowl berths.
When the section playoffs started, there were several Bay Area teams that had never played in a NorCal bowl game that were seeded at or near the top of their respective playoff divisions.
Now, as we go to title weekend in the CIF North Coast and Central Coast Sections, many of the tradition-rich programs with a few exceptions are vying for a NorCal bowl berth.
De La Salle is a given in NCS D1 and with a win almost assuredly means the Spartans will advance to Carson for the Open Division title game that this year bypasses the regional round and robs NorCal fans of a Folsom-DLS showdown.
Division II has two new possibilities with Clayton Valley (Concord) and Concord still in the mix but in Division III it’s down to two teams familiar with bowl games — Campolindo (Moraga) and Kentfield Marin Catholic.
In the CCS Open Division, the seedings would have had one new team in the mix but as it turns out it’s a Bellarmine team with a small chance of getting a NorCal D1 berth against a Sacred Heart Prep team that has D3 bowl experience but now is looking at D1 possibilities if the Gators can silence the bell.
Here are the 13th rankings of the 2014 season (after games of Saturday, Nov. 29; previous ranking in parentheses):
1. (1) De La Salle (Concord) 12-0
Someone local finally mounted a charge to Sparta but, despite losing quarterback Chris Vanderklugt to a hip pointer and even his sophomore backup, the march could not be subdued as De La Salle ended up taking a 45-17 NCS Division I semifinal victory over California of San Ramon in a game that was somewhat close in the first half. To many observers’ surprise, head coach Justin Alumbaugh turned to Devin Asiasi to call signals and the 6-foot-4, 230-pound lineman even completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Sam Phillips. Next up is Pittsburg in the title game on Saturday night at Dublin. It was the Pirates that were the last team north of Fresno to halt Sparta but that was in the 1991 title game. How surprising is it that the semifinal head coach they defeated, Eric Billeci, is a De La Salle alum, as is this week’s opposing head coach, Pittsburg’s Vic Galli. The text response from Alumbaugh with respect to the availability of Vanderklugt. “Not sure yet. He’s expected to be fine, though.”
2. (2) Clayton Valley (Concord) 13-0
The laurels the Ugly Eagles are getting from their win over a Tracy team that has now beaten Carmichael Jesuit and Granite Bay in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs have played themselves out as far as possible because at this point there’s no where further up to go. This past week, a 55-3 thrashing of Petaluma Casa Grande is really only a footnote to the drive to a NorCal D2 bowl berth. First, Clayton Valley must once again get by an arch-rival Concord team that it beat 48-40 across town during league play – and that feat is no given. The game is Friday night at Diablo Valley College.
3. (6) Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) 11-0
The Gators have risen 15 spots in the last three weeks and that’s what can happen when a small school that’s played a somewhat light schedule makes a run at an Open Division title that includes large schools. After a 28-21 victory over Los Gatos there is still one piece of the puzzle missing. To win an Open title, SHP probably figured there was a good chance it would have to get past a West Catholic Athletic League team and that has yet to happen. Now, the road going through the WCAL just isn’t the team many thought at the start of the playoffs. Some will favor the Gators but this game with Bellarmine will be interesting to say the least. With a win, the Gators also could be in the NorCal Division I bowl game if unbeaten Grant of Sacramento were to lose in the CIFSJS Division II title game to 12-1 St. Mary’s of Stockton.
4. (9) Bellarmine (San Jose) 8-2
The Bells have been about as up and down as you can be in our conservative method of not jumping teams around in rankings. First, they lost four spots with the WCAL season-ending loss to Serra. Then they got a spot back with the win two weeks ago in the CCS Open Division opener at Milpitas. This past week, a 21-18 semifinal win over Valley Christian at neutral Independence avenges the 42-17 road loss they suffered in league and left them as the only WCAL team left standing. It’s also resulted in a five-spot jump in this week’s rankings.
5. (3) Valley Christian (San Jose) 9-3
The Warrior offense couldn’t duplicate its numbers from earlier in the season against Bellarmine and lost to the Bells 21-18 in last week’s CCS Open Division semifinals. Now, they’re in one of those consolation games, and because of it and the closeness of the loss to Bellarmine they get to fall in behind the team they split with this season.
6. (13) Pittsburg 10-2
Just like Bellarmine gets a pass at this point for its losses, so do the Pirates for the early close losses to San Ramon Valley and Archbishop Mitty, neither of which are stinker losses. The 10-7 victory over Foothill and seventh straight win wasn’t pretty in the wet conditions, but it puts the Pirates and Coach Vic Galli in a position to duplicate what they did in 1991, and that’s take down De La Salle in the NCS title game, although they will be more than a huge underdog despite whoever Sparta lines up at quarterback.
7. (4) Foothill (Pleasanton) 9-3*
*Season complete. The Falcons didn’t get the rematch with De La Salle they had hoped for after the offense couldn’t get rolling in the loss to Pittsburg. Still, it was a long-awaited East Bay Athletic League title and a great season for veteran and affable head coach Matt Sweeney and his boys.
8. (7) Campolindo (Moraga) 13-0
The Cougars stay in front of the teams in the CCS Open Division consolation bracket, but drop one spot to make room for Bellarmine and Pittsburg. It’s still a little too early to move them past the larger schools that lost close games, particularly since Campo had its problems with an Analy team that was finally put away 61-46. If the Cougars win the NCS Division III title, there will be room to move them back up so this drop is a temporary one.
9. (10) Milpitas 11-1
The Trojans move up because their only loss was in overtime to a Bellarmine team still playing and they have a win over Los Gatos. Milpitas won last week 33-15 in a CCS Open Division consolation game over Oak Grove.
10. (5) Los Gatos 9-3
Like the Valley Christian team a lot of the so-called experts were putting into the Open Division title game, the Cats fell to Sacred Heart Prep and now get Valley Christian only it’s not in the championship but a third-place game. They stay in the top 10 due to the 28-0 win over Serra but have to go back behind Milpitas due to a head-to-head loss.
11. (8) Serra (San Mateo) 8-4
The Padres rebounded from the poor performance against Los Gatos with a 28-14 CCS Open consolation victory on the road at Palma of Salinas. We’ve never had to rank teams in consolation brackets for football before (we did for CCS Open basketball last season) so whether teams like Serra can really rise is doubtful even if they beat Milpitas this week in what many thought might be for all the marbles but instead is for pride only.
12. (11) St. Francis (Mountain View) 8-4
Despite a 42-14 victory over San Jose Leland, the CCS Division II top-seeded Lancers can’t go higher than Open Division teams – even those still playing in the consolation bracket — at this time and maybe not even if they beat league rival Mitty in the all-WCAL title game this Friday night at Campbell Westmont.
13. (12) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 6-4
The pecking order continues as the Monarchs continue to to be ranked right behind the St. Francis team that edged them 15-14 during WCAL play. The CCS D2 No. 2 seed gets a chance to avenge that loss to the Lancers after a 59-21 victory over Wilcox of Santa Clara gets them that desired matchup in the D2 championship game.
14. (14) California (San Ramon) 9-3*
*Season complete. The Grizzlies played De La Salle as tough in the first half as anyone has, including the non-Bay Area teams DLS faced in the early season. Still, in the end, California couldn’t sustain the effort even against a short-handed Spartan squad and fell 45-17 in the NCS D1 semifinals. The overall season performance, however, should help California rise a few spots in the final rankings.
15. (15) Concord 11-1**
**Forfeit win not included. The boost for the Minutemen came last week so a 56-28 victory over upstart Pinole Valley of Pinole isn’t going to get a bump past larger schools this week, but a victory this Friday over Clayton Valley will certainly be more than enough for a big rise next week.
16. (16) Aptos 9-1
Like the Concord team in front of them, the Mariners got their boost last week and a 29-6 victory over Burlingame won’t get them in front of Concord or other large schools yet. A win over St. Ignatius in the CCS Division III title game, however, does put Aptos squarely in the discussion for a NorCal D3 bowl berth.
17. (17) San Ramon Valley (Danville) 7-5*
*Season complete. Loss by the Wolves was two weeks ago in the NCS D1 playoffs to De La Salle.
18. (19) McClymonds (Oakland) 12-0**
**Four forfeit losses not included. Mack won a record fifth straight Silver Bowl (CIF Oakland Section playoff championship) in a surprisingly hard fought 17-8 victory over an Oakland Fremont team they beat 29-8 during Oakland Athletic League play. It was the lowest point output for the Warriors this season but point totals is not what’s on the minds of the Mack faithful. It’s what will be the team’s fate with respect to an appeal to the CIF that would allow those four forfeit losses to be considered wins prior to the CIF state bowl games selection meeting.
18. (18) Palma (Salinas) 9-3*
*Season complete. The Chieftains got a chance at redemption with a CCS Open consolation game at home against Serra, and although they played well a 28-14 loss shows we have them ranked right about where they should be as their season ends.
20. (20) Liberty (Brentwood) 9-3*
*Season complete. The Lions suffered an NCS D1 loss to California in a game they gave the Grizzlies all they could handle.
21. (21) Salesian (Richmond) 9-2**
**Possible forfeit win not included. After a 41-14 win over Stellar Prep of Hayward in the NCS Division V semifinals, the defending champion and top seed Panthers are now into the title game against St. Helena.
22. (22) St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 7-5
Now that they’re done with WCAL play, the Wildcats’ record keeps improving. After a 35-17 semifinal win over San Jose Pioneer, the Wildcats are into the CCS Division III championship against an Aptos team that defeated them 41-35 in last year’s title game.
23. (23) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 11-1
The NCS Division IV defending champion had little trouble with Novato San Marin in a 42-7 semifinal victory that gets the Panthers into the championship game this Friday night at Richmond De Anza against Justin-Siena, a 14-3 winner over Piedmont in the other semifinal.
24. (24) Freedom (Oakley) 7-5*
*Season complete. The Falcons lost two weeks ago to Pittsburg in the NCS D1 playoffs and have a win over Sac-Joaquin Section D1 finalist Tracy.
25. (25) Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 9-3
Despite many thinking MC was primed to be replaced as the top team in the Redwood Empire by a Rancho Cotate team that took out NCS Division III No. 2 seed Las Lomas, the rejuvenated Wildcats made easy work of the Ranch in a 28-6 victory that gets them into the title game on Saturday night against Campolindo at Diablo Valley College. In the victory, junior Darius Peterson joined a select few dual-threat quarterbacks after joining the 2,000-yard passing and 1,000-yard rushing club.
Dropped Out: None.
Team On the Bubble
(In alphabetical order)
Acalanes (Lafayette) 8-4**
Alhambra (Martinez) 8-4**
Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 6-5**
Analy (Sebastopol) 11-2**
Aragon (San Mateo) 9-2**
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 8-4**
Casa Grande (Petaluma) 6-7*
El Cerrito 5-6*
Fremont (Sunnyvale) 9-1*
James Logan (Union City) 8-3*
Justin-Siena (Napa) 10-3
Kennedy (Fremont) 10-1*
Las Lomas (Walnut Creek) 9-3*
Maria Carrillo (Santa Rosa) 7-5*
Mission (San Francisco) 9-3*
Monte Vista (Danville) 4-7*
Monte Vista Christian (Watsonville) 10-2
Pacific Grove 10-2*
Pinole Valley (Pinole) 6-7*
Pioneer (San Jose) 9-3*
Oak Grove (San Jose) 7-5*
Rancho Cotate (Rohnert Park) 9-4*
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 3-7*
San Benito (Hollister) 8-4
San Leandro 6-5*
San Marin (Novato) 9-4*
St. Helena 12-1
Stellar Prep (Hayward) 9-4*
Terra Nova (Pacifica) 6-6
Wilcox (Santa Clara) 7-5*
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend